July 7th, 2012 / No Comments » / by KWright
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The true story of The Greenbrier Ghost – a remarkable case in which the victim’s spirit testified about its own violent death, and named the murderer!
Her daughter was only 23. Yet Mary Jane Heaster watched through tear-soaked eyes as the body of her young daughter was lowered into the cold ground. It was a gray, dreary day in late January, 1897 as Elva Zona Heaster Shue was laid to rest in the cemetery near Greenbrier, West Virginia. Her death came much too soon, thought Mary Jane. Too unexpectedly… too mysteriously.
The coroner listed the cause of death as complications from childbirth. But Zona, as she preferred to be called, had not been giving birth when she died. In fact, as far as anyone knew, the woman was not even pregnant. Mary Jane was certain that her daughter’s death was quite unnatural. If only Zona could speak from the grave, she hoped, and explain what had really brought about her untimely passing.
In one of the most remarkable cases on U.S. court records, Zona Heaster Shue did speak from her grave, revealing not only how she died – but at whose hand. Her ghost’s testimony not only named her own murderer, but helped in convicting the culprit in a court of law. It is the only case on U.S. lawbooks in which the testimony from the spirit of a murder victim aided in resolving the crime.
Just two years before Zona’s death, Mary Jane Heaster had endured another hardship with her daughter. Zona had given birth to a child out of wedlock – a scandalous event in the late 1800s. The father, whoever he was, did not marry Zona, and so the young woman was in need of a husband. In 1896, Zona chanced to meet Erasmus Stribbling Trout Shue. Going by the name Edward, he was newly arrived in Greenbrier, looking to make a new life for himself as a blacksmith. Upon meeting, Edward and Zona took an instant liking to one another and a courtship began.
Mary Jane, however, was not pleased. Protective of her daughter, especially after her recent difficulty, she did not approve of her Zona’s choice in Edward. There was something about him she didn’t like. He was virtually a stranger, after all. And there was something she didn’t trust… perhaps even something evil that her daughter, blinded by love, could not see. Despite her mother’s protests, however, Zona and Edward were married on October 26, 1896.
Three months passed. On January 23, 1897, an 11-year-old African American boy named Andy Jones entered the Shue home and found Zona lying on the floor. He had been sent there by Edward to ask Zona if she needed anything from the market. He stood for a moment looking at the woman, at first not knowing what to make of the scene. Her body was stretched out straight with her legs together. One arm was at her side and the other resting on her body. Her head was tilted to one side.
At first Andy wondered if the woman was asleep on the floor. He stepped quietly toward her. “Mrs. Shue?” he called softly. Something was not right. The boy’s heart began to race as panic swept over his body. Something was dreadfully wrong. Andy bolted from the Shue house and rushed home to tell his mother what he had found.
The local physician and coroner, Dr. George W. Knapp, was summoned. He did not arrive at the Shue residence for about an hour, and by that time Edward had already taken Zona’s lifeless body to an upstairs bedroom. When Knapp entered the room, he was astonished to see that Edward had redressed her in her best Sunday clothing – a beautiful dress with a high neck and stiff collar. Edward had also covered her face with a veil.
Obviously, Zona was dead. But how? Dr. Knapp tried to examine the body to determine cause of death, but all the while Edward, crying bitterly – almost hysterically – cradled his dead wife’s head in his arms. Dr. Knapp could find nothing out of the ordinary that would explain the death of what appeared to have been a healthy young woman. But then he noticed something – a slight discoloration on the right side of her cheek and neck. The doctor wanted to examine the marks, but Edward protested so vehemently that Knapp ended the examination, announcing that poor Zona had died of “an everlasting faint.” Officially and for the record, he inexplicably wrote that the cause of death was “childbirth.” Just as mysterious was his failure to notify the police about the strange marks on her neck that he was unable to examine.
THE WAKE AND THE GHOST
Mary Jane Heaster was beside her self with grief. She felt that Zona’s marriage to Edward would come to a bad end… but not this. Were her apprehensions about Edward more dreadful than she imagined? Were her motherly instincts correct in not trusting this stranger?
Her suspicions deepened at Zona’s wake. Edward was acting strangely; not exactly like a husband in mourning. Some of the neighbors attending the wake noticed it, too. One moment he seemed grief-struck, another moment highly agitated and nervous. He had placed a pillow on one side of Zona’s head and a rolled up cloth on the other, as if keeping it propped in place. He refused to allow anyone near her. Her neck was covered by a large scarf that Edward claimed was her favorite and that he wanted her buried in it. At the end of the wake, as the coffin was being prepared to be taken to the cemetery, several people noticed an odd looseness of Zona’s head.
Zona was buried. Despite all of the strangeness surrounding her daughter’s death, Mary Jane Heaster had no proof of any kind that Edward was somehow to blame, or that Zona’s death was in any way unnatural. The suspicions and the questions might have been buried along with Zona and eventually forgotten had not some unexplained phenomena begun to take place.
Mary Jane had taken the rolled up white sheet from Zona’s coffin before it was sealed. And now, days after the funeral she tried to return it to Edward. In keeping with his peculiar behavior, he refused to take it. Mary Jane brought it back home with her, deciding to keep it as a memory of her daughter. She noticed. however, that it had a strange, indefinable odor. She filled a basin with water in which to wash the sheet. When she submerged the sheet, the water turned red, the color bleeding from the sheet. Mary Jane jumped back in astonishment. She took a pitcher and scooped some of the water from the basin. It was clear.
The once-white sheet was now stained pink, and nothing Mary Jane would do could remove the stain. She washed it, boiled it and hung it in the sun. The stain remained. It was a sign, Mary Jane thought. A message from Zona that her death was far from natural.
If only Zona could tell her what happened and how. Mary Jane prayed that Zona would come back from the dead and reveal the circumstances of her death. Mary Jane made this prayer every day for weeks… and then her prayer was answered.
Cold winter winds swirled around the streets of Greenbrier. As the early darkness crept into Mary Jane Heaster’s home every night, she lit her oil lamps and candles for light, and stoked the wood stove for warmth. From out of this dim atmosphere, so Mary Jane claimed, the spirit of her beloved Zona appeared to her on four nights. During these spectral visits, Zona told her mother how she had died.
Edward was cruel and abusive to her, Zona said. And on the day of her death his violence went too far. Edward became irrationally angry at her when she told them she had no meat for his dinner. He was overcome with rage and lashed out at his wife. He savagely attacked the defenseless woman and broke her neck. To prove her account, the ghost slowly turned its head completely around at the neck.
Zona’s ghost had confirmed her mother’s worst suspicions. It all fit: Edward’s strange behavior and the way he attempted to protect his dead wife’s neck from movement and inspection. He had murdered the poor woman! Mary Jane took her story to John Alfred Preston, the local prosecutor. Preston listened patiently, if skeptically, to Mrs. Heaster’s story of the telltale ghost. He certainly had his doubts about it, but there was enough that was unusual or suspicious about the case, and he decided to pursue it.
Preston ordered Zona’s body exhumed for an autopsy. Edward protested the action, but had no power to stop it. He began to show signs of great stress. He said publicly that he knew he would be arrested for the crime, but that “they will not be able to prove I did it.” Prove what?, Edward’s friends wondered, unless he knew she had been murdered.
The autopsy revealed – just as the ghost has said – that Zona’s neck was broken and her windpipe crushed from violent strangulation. Edward Shue was arrested on charge of murder.
As he awaited trial in jail, Edward’s rather unsavory background came to light. He had served time in jail on a previous occasion, being convicted of stealing a horse. Edward had been married twice before, each marriage suffering under his violent temper. His first wife divorced him after he had angrily thrown all of her possessions out of their house. His second wife wasn’t so lucky; she died under mysterious circumstances of a blow to the head. Once again, Mary Jane’s intuition about this man was verified. He was evil.
And maybe he was a bit of a psychopath. His jailkeepers and cellmates reported that Edward seemed to be in good spirits while in jail. In fact, he bragged that it was intention to eventually have seven wives. Being only 35 years old, he said, he should easily be able to realize his ambition. Apparently, he was certain that he would not be convicted of Zona’s death. What evidence was there, after all?
The evidence against Edward may have only been circumstantial at best. But he didn’t count on the testimony of an eyewitness to the murder – Zona.
Spring had come and gone, and it was now late June when Edward’s trial for murder came before a jury. The prosecutor lined up several people to testify against Edward, citing his peculiar behavior and his unguarded comments. But would that be enough to convict him? There were no other witnesses to the crime, and Edward had not been placed at or near the scene at the time the murder allegedly took place. Taking the stand in his defense, he vehemently denied the charges.
What of Zona’s ghost? The court had ruled that prosecuting testimony about the ghost and what it claimed was inadmissible. But then Edward’s defending lawyer made a mistake that perhaps sealed his client’s fate. He called Mary Jane Heaster to the stand. In an attempt, perhaps, to show that the woman was unbalanced – maybe even insane – and prejudicial against his client, he brought up the matter of Zona’s ghost.
Seated on the witness stand in front of a packed courtroom and an attentive jury, Mary Jane told the story of how Zona’s ghost appeared to her and accused Edward of the foul deed – that her neck had been “squeezed off at the first verterbrae.”
Whether or not the jury took Mary Jane’s – or rather Zona’s – testimony seriously is not known. But they did hand down a verdict of guilty on the charge of murder. Normally, such a conviction would have brought a sentence of death, but because of the circumstantial nature of the evidence, Edward was sentenced to life in prison. He died on March 13, 1900 in the Moundsville, W.V. penitentiary.
Was the jury swayed, even a little, by the story of Zona’s ghost? Was there even a ghost at all? Or was Mary Jane Heaster so convinced that Edward Shue had murdered her daughter that she made up the story to help convict him? In either case, without the story of Zona’s ghost, Mary Jane may never have had the courage to approach the prosecutor, and Edward may never have been brought to trial. And Zona’s ghost would have remained unavenged.
A highway historical marker near Greenbrier commemorates Zona and the unusual court case surrounding her death:
Interred in nearby cemetery is
Zona Heaster Shue
Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition’s account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to the state prison. Only known case in which testimony from ghost helped convict a murderer.
January 18th, 2012 / 44 Comments » / by KWright
As you may your may not have heard, there has been a recent influx of “Strange sounds around the world”, “Earth groaning”, and other phrases describing basically similar events which “witnesses” video tape and share. All are comprised of loud machine-ish, or even trumpet-like, sounds that seem to permeate an area from above and / or from underground. An example, and pretty complete list of the more popular videos sprouting up, is found here (and also one of my “suspected” actual viral marketing sties” -
It has come to my attention that “Jay Man”, and his StrangeSoundsintheSky.com web site, are no longer suspect, at least in my eyes, of being involved with the creation of the “Sounds” hoaxes. I will leave the following original entry in for continuity and future researchers. Any reference to this site and it’s admin being involved in the creation or perpetuation of the “phenomena”, I, personally, am convinced the site has nothing to do with the events, other than simply amassing, posting, and critiquing theses videos also. The registration date, and other things detailed below, mistakenly threw suspicion, but, alas, it just ain’t so. As we have found after technical examinations of the captures in question, the majority are of such low amateur quality, folks are starting to realize that no big-production-anything could be involved. The other “coincidence” of the movie “Red State” being released about the time as these videos started showing up is further evidence that it’s all just a bunch of one, or a few, hoaxers that copy-cat-ers sank their felines into, and rode it for all it’s worth.
http://strangesoundsinthesky.com/ – the domain of which was registered (privately, I might add) 10/4/11, about the same time as this “phenomenon” started spreading.
The more I watched, the more similar I noticed the sounds seemed. Some where varried, but had the same base machine/trumpeting hollow-earthy reverberating sound. Which, was very suspect after about a day of “finding” the different videos. But, if they were blatantly faked…the first question that came to mind was…why? Then…who?
After milling it over, my neural-synapses made a quantum leap and, just like a particular smell reminds you of an exact feeling, one thing popped into mind – the Cloverfield movie heavy viral marketing strategy that preceded the movie itself. So, putting the two together in a nifty Google search, I found that at least one individual who performed a little CSI on the videos vs. sound contained in them, and came up with an interesting fact: all were faked, most very badly. Many more individuals have put together the “strange sound” phenomenon and J.J. Abrams’s love of viral marketing, and right now, that appears to coalesce into the reigning theory – Most, if not all, of these videos are probably viral marketing for the yet-unnamed Cloverfield sequel. In any event, the most popular videos have been proven to contain fake audio overlays…many are just natural sounds (animals, even a cymbal) slowed down with delay or reverberation effects added.
It should also be noted, and highly suspect, that there have been no actual reports to local, state, or federal authorities, nor any direct reports or coverage of these supposedly very public and should-be-heard-by-everyone events. The only witnesses, it appears, is the videographer(s), and, contrary to what may be stated in some of the videos, no one else has reported, or even seems to react, to the sounds in these videos.
Contrast this to the Phoenix Lights event that happened on one day, March 13, 1997, and by comparison on scale alone, has been documented several ways, appearing on countless TV shows and specials. (A show recently debunked the lights as military flares dropped behind, and disappearing behind, the mountain in the background). Yet, with all these “sound events” happening over widespread, very populated areas, and world-wide, I might add, there exists absolutely no additional coverage at all by anyone other than one videographer in each region. With all the instant recording devices and how they have changed the reporting landscape, it’s very improbable there are not copious, multiple views of the same event being shared all over the net. Remember the Reno air show tragedy? An accident that happened in a split second, and there were no less then 7 different angles I’ve seen, and who knows how many just didn’t make the airwaves.
A little more proof of the hoax…listen to the video here at :48 then at 10:34 then at 111:52 (sound slowed down a little) then at 3:38. Four different “locations”. Same sound, even down to the unintentional ”local” sound (bird or kid screeching…actually, I have an idea of what the recoding is, I’ll hold that and see if it pans out) in the foreground, from some of the fore-runner videos of this whole perpetuated junk.
Have a look as the excellent triage a nice reddit user performed on the videos related to these world-side “sound events”:
Obviously, many people think there is something similar to these videos actually occuring, if we take some of the posters below at face value.
Without evidence, it’s very hard to call one way or the other. There is no way to know, individually, if any are trained observers, misinterpreting natural events, or, even reporting events that actually occur(ed) ( I would think of a natural, yet somewhat rare condition).
With that, I should shout the obvious out - if there are non-hoax events happening in reality, we need these documented and reported. Seeing that they tend to last quite a while, it shouldn’t be beyond the scope of reality to have enough time to actually have an authority respond. This would be the first step to having an official “Yes, there is some unexplained noise event occuring”, which, in turn, would interest local and other scientists who are interested in studying, or, if it’s a known phenomenon, have it officially explained. Ok, don’t start with the “swamp gas” remarks.
Some futher “corrections in navigation”, the inital thought and research on infomation at the time before this post did heavily lean toward a viral marketing explanation towards a certain movie. I’m less certain about the movie, but it is either intentional, viral marketing, or just a really popular copy-cat hoax that propagated. On the Internet, we all know that’s not impossible. So, remains to be seen.
There still remains a very noticible lack of real news / media attention. Do date, I don’t have any known professionally covered reports. A couple of “buts” have been routinely given as answers to that question, “but”, they are either explained, now, or not what they seem. The most prevelent answer is the very publicly brodcated Tampa Bay Rays Baseball game “howl” on Aug 23, 2011, that has been put fourth as documented, non-hoaxed evidence. This instance has been explained, related to what we had originally though and posted above. The game was posponed 20 minutes due to bad weather, with heavy percipitation, strong wind, and lightning. A bad thunderstorm. That, naturally, lent an explanation..howling wind around and through a large baseball dome. Close, but no cigar there. In reality, it was due to the sound system taking a hit with lightning, which cause some massive feedback through a certain set of speakers, the result sounding very much like a haunting howl. I admit, althogh it sounded much different than the hoax videos, the sound did get my attention. As it should…it was an actual event being captured on audio, with real reactions by those involved.
You can read the story and official expanation here -
The second prevailing defense against my asserting that there have been no real news entities giving attention given to the matter; everyone is giving the link to “Costa Rica News Site”. (http://www.costaricanewssite.com/). The story “they” ran is here – http://www.costaricanewssite.com/strange-sound-heard-throughout-costa-rica
The important issue here is, costaricanewssite.com is NOT a News outlet. Far from it. Check their “About” page. This is a site done by an individual that lives in Costa Rica, and originally put the site up to *sell his house*. He gives the story, and he soon started aggregating news that he chose as content. So, it’s an individual with a *zine / newspaper style page, publishing what they want. And, he has all rights to do so. But, it’s a non-match for the criteria we need of an established, credible, news source (if that really even exists anyway) giving attention to the matter, preferably without an X-files backing soundtrack. )
One last note, I do not approve any posts that are out-and-out combative, overly negative, or especially if vulgarity is used. Go over to LiveLeak if you get off on that junk. Cussing me out and calling me an idiot will never see the light of day. Keep in mind, also, the only point of this post is to call out the videos in question as hoaxes (which we and many others have already proven). So, if, after all the evidence and proof that these particular files are indeed falsified, you still feel compelled to defend them as bona fide, then we are all aware who really deserves that label. Debate is welcome. Rude is not. Go getcha a domain and some WordPress if you feel that strongly about it and exercise your right. ’Nuff said.
January 14th, 2012 / No Comments » / by KWright